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More animals depicted in new public statues than named women in 2023

More animals were depicted in public statues than named women in 2023, new research has revealed.

A total of 13 animals and 14 named men were immortalised as statues, but only 12 named women, according to data from art education charity Art UK.

The research also found that 2023 was the first year this century in which more living people than dead people were the subject of new public sculptures.

Among the animal statues unveiled last year were Ozzy The Bull at Birmingham New Street Station, a Palaeotherium (prehistoric herbivore) among the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs in London and War Horse in Bristol.

A Palaeotherium dinosaur sculpture was unveiled in Crystal Palace in London in 2023
The new Palaeotherium sculpture by Robert Nicholls, installed at Crystal Palace in south London (Jade King/Art UK/PA)

The named women depicted in statues last year include renowned crime author Agatha Christie, Paralympian swimmer Ellie Simmons and the late Queen Elizabeth II.

In 2021, Art UK found London had double the number of public statues of animals than of named women, a figure that the charity says has barely changed since.

A statue of author Agatha Christie was unveiled in 2023 in the Oxfordshire town where she lived
Statue of author Agatha Christie in Oxfordshire by Ben Twiston-Davies (Jane Roblin/Art UK/PA)

Despite recent campaigns to diversify the figures represented in public statues, those commemorated are “still overwhelmingly white men”, Art UK said.

The charity also revealed that of the 87 named artists behind the 94 sculptures unveiled last year, 92% were white and 69% were male.

Art UK deputy chief executive Katey Goodwin said the impact of the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 during which statues around the world were defaced and removed, meant that people were much more aware of who was being commemorated in their local area.

Ms Goodwin said: “In most cases, people walk past without reading the information.

“I think that’s what a lot of people started doing in the last few years – actually stopping to take notice of what’s around them.”

The Rolling Stones' Keith Richards and Sir Mick Jagger portrayed in the "Glimmer Twins" statues in Kent
The Glimmer Twins statues of Keith Richards and Mick Jagger in Kent by Amy Goodman (Andy Smith/Art UK/PA)

On the importance of diversifying the figures seen in public artwork, Ms Goodwin said: “We’re constantly walking past lots of statues of men, what does that tell us about who we celebrate in this country?

“It’s about making sure we’re not just telling one story or one side of the story.”

The charity noted that, with so many public artworks depicting white men installed across the UK over hundreds of years it is “unlikely” that the balance of different ethnicities and genders “will ever be redressed”.

A spokesperson for Arts Council England said: “It is only right that England’s diversity should be fully reflected in the individuals and organisations we support and the culture they produce.”